For the longest time, the American wine industry has managed to maintain an apolitical veneer, steering clear of endorsements or positions on everything partisan except the issues most directly impacting the industry. Climate change, of course, bore mentioning, as did immigration issues, especially in California. But even as recently as 2016, the latter has most often been treated with kid gloves, with the labour challenges faced by growers often couched in generic terms rather than partisan language decrying current governmental policies.
The thinking, it seemed, was that overtly political stances served only to alienate some wine drinkers, a population already smaller than everyone would like. But with the polarisation that characterises the Trump presidency, and in the wake of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, social pressures (not to mention policy decisions and their resulting tariffs and trade wars) have induced the wine industry to take a public stand on issues that it has long avoided.
The industry is finding that it can no longer simply avoid scrutiny by sticking to tasting notes and vintage charts, recipes and pairing suggestions. Much ado was made on Twitter earlier in the year over a post by the American Association of Wine Economists showing more than $600,000 in donations to Trump and his associated political action committees from key members of the California wine industry, versus a mere $80,000 to his political rivals.
Even before the summer’s unrest that drove many businesses into declarations of their social values, Trump’s election prompted some in the wine industry to take action, launching efforts to support causes that clearly defined their politics once and for all.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her web site. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.
Image ©2020 Emma K. Morris, courtesy of Crush the Vote.